Tasty Freeze

Now in Season Winter 2011 Issue

Tasty Freeze

By Terese Allen | Photos By Jim Klousia 0

Winter is a time of disconnection. In the frigid, closed-up north, we can become cut off—from light, from warmth, from the smells and sounds of the natural world. Yet there’s one place where the senses seem heightened during this time of year: at the stove. Here there’s color, aroma and heat…and above all, flavor.

Why do our taste buds in particular stand at attention in winter? Maybe it’s because of the kind of cooking we do right now. While the world outside contracts, in the kitchen we expand. We open cookbooks to travel the globe. We spread mixing bowls across the counter and load the oven with roasts and root vegetables. We knead swelling rounds of bread dough and build deep savor in pots of bubbling soup.

That’s passion you can taste.

Summer food is simple-natured—think sliced tomatoes or boiled corn—but winter fare is wiser, more multi-dimensional and profound. Stew, for example, begins with the basics—aromatics like onions and garlic softened in butter or oil. Then it’s flavor-layered with seared meat, chunked vegetables and rich stock. Every tiny, gnarly-looking tidbit at the bottom of the browning pan is put to succulent use. By the time you sit down to dig in, this stew has lived a slow-simmered, well-seasoned life.

Holiday fare has its own kind of flavor—think cinnamon, brandy, butter and nuts. Heartfelt treats like Norwegian fattigman, Jewish rugelach and sweet potato pie carry taste imprints that connect us to our past. (Wisconsin may not be famous for its cornucopia of heritage foods, but it should be.) During mid-winter’s celebrations, when we follow the same cooking rituals and eat the same foods as our ancestors, we get a delicious taste of re-connection.

Winter’s stored-over ingredients are often intensely flavored—the concentrated sweetness of fruit preserves, the salt and spunk of home-canned pickles, the basil-bold, chile-spiked tomato sauce we packed into the freezer at harvest time.

Sure, it’s cold outside. But inside, at the table, life sure tastes good. 


Visit our Eat Seasonal page to find out what foods are in season right now, and we hope you enjoy these winter recipes by Terese:

Spiced Eggnog Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Puerto Rican Pork Rib Stew

Polenta with Greens, Onions and Asiago 

Terese Allen has written scores of books and articles about the foodways of Wisconsin, including the award-winning titles "The Flavor of Wisconsin" and "The Flavor of Wisconsin for Kids." She is co-founder and a longtime leader of the Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin (CHEW). If you want to get Terese going, just ask her the best way to fix an old-fashioned, how to hunt for morels, or why fish fries thrive in our state.

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